FFRF sends letter to Scranton School District

Getty Images/Christine Glade
Getty Images/Christine Glade

The Freedom From Religion Foundation notified the Scranton School District that the district’s lease agreement with the Diocese of Scranton is illegal.

In March of 2014, I offered my thoughts on a lease agreement the Scranton School District — a public school district in Pennsylvania — entered into with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton.

I noted that the lease was problematic because it would result in taxpayer monies being funneled into the diocese and because a provision in the lease states that the district refrain from “any activity that violates any teachings or policies which in any way is contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith and the Diocese of Scranton.” Taxpayer monies should not fund religion and public school districts should not enter into agreements with religious organizations [allowing religious organizations to have control over what occurs at public school districts].

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, following a complaint I sent to them, echoed my grievances and sent a letter to the district. The letter explains that the lease provision — stipulating the district cannot engage in activity contrary to Roman Catholic teaching — “is illegal, and the District must not abide by it or sign future contracts with similar provisions.”

The letter also cites federal court precedent concerning a case in which a school district entered into a lease with a similar provision as the lease between the Diocese of Scranton and the Scranton School District which notes “the government may not share with or delegate to a religious institution the power to veto aspects of a public school curriculum” and “the government must avoid not only the actual interference but also the potential for and appearance of interference with religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter ends noting, “A public school district should not enter into any contracts which condition its activity on the approval of a religious organization. It demonstrates unconstitutional endorsement of the views of the organization, here the Catholic Church.”

Read the letter below and, as always, feel free to comment.

FFRF letter to Scranton School District

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University's graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County's Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher's assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.